Ukraine crisis highlights German dependence on Russian oil

The looming threat of a Ukrainian invasion by Russia has reopened Cold War-era wounds and left world leaders scrambling to strengthen ties with NATO to present a united European front.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken struck a tough tone on Friday after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, telling reporters that any Russian invasion would be “responded with a swift, severe and united response”.

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Blinken’s promise of a united front comes after reports surfaced in recent weeks suggesting that Germany could backtrack on its support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline sanction if Russia violates Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Germany’s new chancellor Olaf Scholz tried to set the record straight this week and said the newly appointed government is sticking to the US-German deal reached in July 2021 between President Biden and the former chancellor Angela Merkel.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech during a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, December 15, 2021.
(AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The two sides agreed to allow construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will bring gas to Germany from Russia, to continue, as long as the Kremlin does not misuse the pipeline for political purposes.

The United States and other NATO member countries have threatened tough economic sanctions, including on the pipeline, if Russian President Vladimir Putin invades the former Soviet nation.

But comments made by Biden in an address to the nation on Wednesday suggested NATO was not yet united in its drive to punish Putin through the new pipeline.

“It depends on what he does, as to the exact extent … how far we can get total unity … on the NATO front,” Biden said.

Stefanie Babst, a former senior NATO official, also claimed in an article for the German Council on Foreign Relations this month that there was little appetite in Germany to sanction the pipeline.

“A considerable part of the public believes that Russia should be granted an exclusive zone of influence in return for maintaining gas supplies,” Babst wrote.

Germany has become dependent on Russia for much of its energy needs.

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According to the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA), Germany received 34% of its crude oil requirements from Russia in 2021 during the months of January to October. It also received 53% of its hard coal needed to power German electricity generators and steelmakers from its northern neighbor last year, Reuters reported.

President Biden listens to a question during a press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, January 19, 2022.

President Biden listens to a question during a press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, January 19, 2022.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“Berlin’s dependence on Russian energy sources is too high, and that leads us to these unfortunate situations where Germany may not be as agreeable with what most other members of the alliance are ready to impose on Russia,” the president of the Institute of World Politics and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for politics, James Anderson, told Fox News Digital.

But it’s not just Germany that depends on Russian oil.

The European Union reported that in the second quarter of 2021, Russia was Europe’s largest gas supplier, pumping 42% of the continent’s gas imports.

Anderson pointed to Germany’s decision to shut down its nuclear power plants by 2022 – a move taken by Merkel in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011 – as another indicator that Germany’s dependence on Russian oil could s prove problematic.

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“I would say it’s almost a self-inflicted injury by Germany,” Anderson said. “They have made significant investments in solar energy, and they have done so even though Germany is notorious for its cloud cover.”

“The extent to which a country can have confidence in its own energy sources is a very important thing in the 21st century,” he added.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a ceremony to receive the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal at the Chancellery on August 30, 2021 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Andreas Gora - Pool/Getty Images)

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a ceremony to receive the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal at the Chancellery on August 30, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Gora – Pool/Getty Images)

But Kori Schake, senior fellow and director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News Digital she was less concerned about German public opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline sanctions. , and noted that Berlin was dependent on Russian gas. since the 1970s.

Schake, who also worked for the Defense Ministry on NATO issues involving German-Soviet relations at the end of the Cold War, said the German government needed to explain to its public why it was in their interest to stand with NATO to bring down gas prices.

“The German government has yet to ask its own public to explain why it has to do this,” she said. “If they allow Russia to be a predator in Europe, Russia will continue to drive up energy costs, and maybe it’s time to reduce our dependence, even if we pay the price short term.”

Schake also argued that the benefits for Germany of maintaining a strong alliance with NATO outweigh the short-term ease of lower gas prices.

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“We have done a lot to make Germany safe and prosperous, and NATO expansion has shifted the risk that Russia poses to Germany further east – the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary , Bulgaria are the frontline states in the face of Russian aggression.”

“This has made Germany a major beneficiary of the current European security order,” she added.

Schake said she was confident NATO would stand united against Russian aggression.